Working on the dock of the bay - Bob Paslay

Recently ”ABC News“ aired a segment on a new management plan being tested at the giant electronics company, Best Buy in Minneapolis. The concept is that its 2,000 employees there can come and go as they please.

The management plan is known as ROWE for Results Oriented Work Environment.

The network looked at employee Brian Lucas, a public relations manager, who has a wife with cancer who needs to go to the doctor frequently and the couple have a baby and a toddler.

So when most are slaving at their desks during the day, the network found Lucas playing with one of his children.

"People trust the fact that if I'm not at my desk, there's a good reason I'm not at my desk," Lucas tells the network. "I don't have to show my face in the office a certain number of hours to make sure people know I'm working."

The report included the news that they don't know how they are going to do it, but they hope to spread ROWE out of the corporate offices and into it stores.

This is a new management style but borrows from some older ones. I worked for a place once that had MBOs or Management by Objectives, meaning we are not going to micromanage you but are going to set the goals and you are going to meet them.

This newest plan makes perfectly good sense, especially in a world of single-parent homes and homes in which both parents are working.

When you think about it what does it matter to any company how you get the job done. Especially with all of the new technology and gadgets, we have exploded the work place to anywhere that people can reach you.

I think this new plan is going to make for happier employees and happy employees do a better job and are more pleasant to be around.

Years ago ”60 Minutes“ took a look at some of the key people who did maintenance in the New York City schools. They showed some of the work needed to be done at schools and then found the head of maintenance out working on his boat or some other personal things during working hours.

So obviously if you are going to have a flex work schedule you need people with work ethics, who understand that they are not getting extra vacation but are being given a creative way to do their jobs.

The bottom line obviously is whether the work gets done and done in a timely and professional way.

All of us who have jobs in which you come and go have a flexed out life a little bit. You go out to see someone and on the way back you pass the mall. Hmm, you pop in and buy that wedding present, have it wrapped and then 20 minutes later head back to work.

Companies have been using technology to flex out some things for years now. You buy a new computer and you need help. You call the help line and you are pip, pip cheerioed and you don't care if the helper is in England or America or India as long as they can get that blasted computer working for you.

So to carry it a step further. You don't even care if the person helping you has a fishing rod in his hand and is sitting on an idyllic river bank catching a few trout. You just want help. If so many jobs, you are paying the big bucks for what is inside the person's head and not what part of their body is warming a chair in the main office.

Companies years ago recognized that life goes on, with all the baby sitting problems, etc., and came up with daycare and nurseries for employees. This assumes the little tyke is going to be healthy. But doesn't it make better sense for that employee to stay home and watch the child and when the spouse arrives home to the warm meal you have prepared you head off to work for some hours of getting the job done. You have already analyzed the numbers or written a lot of the report on your home computer which you e-mailed to yourself.

Without a lot of employees at work, it doesn't matter if your spouse and baby want to tag along and keep themselves busy in an adjoining office while you finish your work.

Even in our own newsroom we have asked ourselves if we could do some of the work from home. Our discussion so far has been what happens if bad weather knocks out the lights at the office or if a snowstorm keeps you close to home.

But this whole concept of coming an going as you please is one in which we will see more and more of it. How Best Buy is going to be able to push this concept to their clerks and other employees at their stores will be interesting to watch.

The bottom line in all service businesses is whether we the customer has someone to help us and wait on us and check us out when we are ready to buy something.

And just for the record, I am sitting at my little Dilbert cubicle at the office in Jonesboro and no, I am not sipping on a cold one and casting into a cool lake as I finish this column (not that I wouldn't want to be).

Bob Paslay is editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald and can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at bpaslay@news-daily.com .